David McAllister, the European Parliament (EP) lawmaker and the Chair of the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee has stated that “Recent developments in Turkey including purges of the judiciary, the controversial constitutional reform and serious human rights violations indicate indeed that the country is turning its back on the rule of law, democracy and our European values.”
Giving an interview to Brussels-based Vocal Europe online news outlet on Monday, McAllister underlined that EU-Turkey relations have been facing tremendous challenges, particularly since a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 as Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tightens his grip on fundamental rights and freedoms.
“I am following these developments with deep concern. The European Parliament has repeatedly called for the suspension of accession talks following Turkey’s democratic backsliding. Given the findings of the Venice Commission which specified that the constitutional changes in Turkey are incompatible with the Copenhagen criteria, I believe we should opt for a different form of partnership that provides for cooperation in key areas of joint interest instead of EU accession talks,” said McAllister.
Regarding the role of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), McAllister has defended that “I would like to underline that after declaring the state of emergency, Turkey had suspended part of its human rights obligations under article 15 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). This has limited the ECtHR’s jurisdiction to violations of the right to life and cases of torture or inhuman or degrading punishment in Turkey.”
Stating that the ECtHR is independent and as such bound by laws and not political decisions, McAllister has added that “It is obliged to respect the terms of the convention for states in emergency situations, but can consider whether Turkey acts in a balanced way. In fact, the court has put several cases on freedom of expression on its agenda without waiting for the end of the state of emergency in Turkey and is expected to deliver a judgment on these cases this year.”
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “Even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”